Understanding that the Simple Path—the path I always longed for, a direction that seemed laid ahead so clearly for others, was one never meant for me, was a revolutionary ah-ha moment.
Sitting in the sun on my balcony in Goa, reading and eating curry—what could be more simple than that? Apart from the fact I was in a foreign country, away from all those I loved, during the worst global pandemic since the Spanish Flu in 1918, trying to come to grips with the fact my journey of a lifetime—solo six months travelling India—was coming to a close months before I was ready to go back home. Sure! Simple life right?! Ooh wait, yes that’s right—I am not and never was, destined for a simple life.
This realisation was an absolute game-changer for me. The fact is, I have always suspected as such, but have fought against it, ultimately fighting against myself and against accepting the way things are and the way I am, for as long as I can recall.
The simple life I desired had become that far-off ideal; when my life looks like this and things become easier, I will be happy. Or something of that ilk we all go through at some stage within our own personal mental chatter.
So what does a simple life look like?
Well, the answer will differ for each of us of course. For me, I have always aspired, or perhaps coveted is a better description, stability. A home and a family to call my own, neighbours consisting of friends and parents within driving distance. A stable job that stimulates me, incorporating a bit of travel, perhaps. But most importantly—ease.
Now, of course, I know life can be unmistakably challenging at times, and over the years it has become clear, both to myself and those who know me best, that Pippa does things the hard way! Whenever a situation presents itself I will, without question, choose the road less travelled. Often making things much harder for myself than needed. Friends have commented: “She dances to the beat of her own drum, that one.” or “Gosh, life likes to throw you curveballs, doesn’t it!”
While I have never been a scholar and school held little of my attention back in the day, perhaps it is no wonder that my favourite poem, “The Road Not Travelled” by Robert Frost, has stuck with me all these years.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel bot
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
The last two lines in that last verse—“I took the one less travelled by…And that has made all the difference.”—speak directly to my understanding of life so far and this ultimate self-realization. Taking the path less travelled may indeed create more challenges for oneself along the way, but for some of us, it is truly the only option available. For the more I look back at pivotal moments the more I come to understand that indeed, I was never meant to walk the simple path, the path of ease.
Now here’s the beauty in this realization. Walking the more complicated life path more often than not leads us to great life lessons, directing us closer and closer to our true essence, our true selves. In my experience, wisdom is rarely gained when we sit back and choose easy. Now don’t get me wrong, sometimes easy really can be the best way and I have many friends who have flourished on this path, but again, in my experience, I couldn’t have travelled easy even if I wanted to.
If you are fighting yourself and wishing life were simpler, uncomplicated, or straightforward, try to understand this—wanting things to be easier, or different, only makes life harder. The sooner we can start accepting life, and more importantly ourselves, exactly the way we are, the sooner we can begin to notice all the joy we are also experiencing on the road less travelled.
For life is all about polarity; with great struggle, we can open and access great joy. We cannot experience one emotion without the other. To know struggle is also to know happiness. While stuck in the thick of it, grinding through whatever situation we find ourselves in, there can often be a deep sense of fulfilment once we begin to surrender to what is. However, this is usually much harder to locate, so many times we overlook it. Often these polarities can coexist—silver lining anyone?! Though admittedly not always, as sometimes we do need the perspective of time and distance to understand a particular life lesson.
So I challenge you to be open during your struggle, to get curious about what lies beneath for you. No, it is not easy or simple, but to find your joy amongst your pain is one of the greatest personal understandings of Self I know.
At the time, back on that balcony in Goa, I can recall a huge sense of relief washing over me as I finally succumbed to this great teaching. Sigh! Now I can go on with my messy, oh-so-complicated but oh-so-beautiful life without wishing it was somehow anything other than what it is, what it was always meant to be. Me—living, loving, grinding but ultimately allowing myself to be. For simply understanding we are all perfectly imperfect.